As published on henriken.no.
On a Saturday night that bites with a late Autumn wind in Oslo, listen carefully and you may just hear the hint of saxophone being carried on the wind. Follow the sound through the dimly-lit streets, led by the flare of trombone and hum of double bass, until you find yourself standing outside Henriken. Do you hear that? The vibration filling the cool air? With numb fingers you pull open the door and are hit with a burst of laughter, the smell of burning candles and the sound of winklepickers stamping the floor.
Welcome to Swing Noir night.
Stepping into the cafe glowing in pink light, you feel like you’re joining in on a secret. While nightclubs are overflowing and families are settling down for evening TV elsewhere in the city, here dancers swing their hips to the sounds of the 40s in a cafe the size no larger than a lounge. People turn to see who’s entered but it’s not a look that makes you feel like you’re encroaching. It’s inviting, yet there’s no pressure to dance. Sit back and bathe in the in the feeling of being transported to an era somewhat more elegant than our own.
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Listen up, wannabe bilinguists. I’m going to let you in on a secret: you don’t need Rosetta Stone. Nor do you need adjective flash cards, a pocket-sized phrase book or any teach-yourself course that will make you an expert in pronouncing “the man can run” in the Queen’s English but able to say little else. What you need is to step away from the inanimate and start interacting, and I don’t mean pricey tutorials over Skype. The thought of putting what you’ve learnt into practice can be scary, whether you’re at A1 or C1 stage- it’s fair to compare the feeling to jumping from making coke and menthol rockets to assisting at NASA – but I’m happy to make a bet that it’s the most effective way.
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Patriotism is not my best asset. My nearests and dearests will know that I still get the British National Anthem confused with Rule, Britannia! and that I was embarassed to be seen with the new Firefly beverage in Oslo: choosing between the tantalising taste of Bramley Apple & Ginger and parading the Union Jack was a genuine predicament for me. Subsequently, it came as a surprise when I felt my ego deflate alongside with the vision of swanning into Norway and being given a job on behalf of my British accent and encyclopedic knowledge of tea. Of course, I hadn’t realised how reliant I was on my nationality to easily be granted access to Norway until I was at the Oslo tax office, waiting in a long queue of…and that’s when it dawned on me: “I’m an immigrant.” After years of being stuck in the British mindset of associating immigrants with Eastern Europeans, the neon flashing word of ‘arrogance’ came to give me a well-deserved slap.
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